Motherhood: The Worry and the Joy.

When I was pregnant, I was so eager for Penelope to get here so I would be able to see her and know that she was okay.

And then she was born and I immediately wanted her to be back inside, so I could keep her safe.

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A few weeks later, I half-jokingly, half-completely-seriously-tell-me-it-will-stop-right-now, asked my Mom when I was going to stop worrying so much.

Without hesitation, she replied, “Never.”

Let me tell you, Momma doesn’t lie.

Twenty-one months into motherhood, this is what I would tell my brand-new Mama-self about worrying:

It’s not going to stop. It’s going to get worse and better.

Worse because she is going to grow, and as she does, so is the love you have for her. I know, you think you can’t love her any more than you do right at this exact moment. You’re still saying that almost every day in two years. And as she grows, right alongside your love, your list of things to worry about will grow, too.

Right now you’ve got the basics to think about.

Is she breathing?
Is she eating enough?
Is she eating too much?
Is she gaining weight?
Is she breathing?
Is she sleeping too much? Your pediatrician really loves this one.
Did she roll onto her belly while she was asleep?
Is she breathing?
Why didn’t you just get the damn video monitor so you could watch her breath?

New motherhood is a roller coaster of love and hormones and crying, but you’re doing great and, eventually, you will realize she is not going to stop breathing if you take your eyes off her. By month six, you will feel like a seasoned pro.

And then come the new worries. They are slightly more complex.

How can I teach her to be confident but not fixated on her appearance?
Am I challenging her enough? Too much?
Is she having fun at school?
Is she having more fun at school than at home with me?
How can the child only subsist off of six grapes and half a cup of yogurt some days?
How do I protect her from predators? No, not sharks. The more insidious kind of predator.
Though, speaking of, how do I protect her from sharks?

But, as I said, it gets better, too. Because the worrying comes hand-in-hand with the joy. You think you love this child right now?

In four weeks, she is going to look right into your eyes while you’re changing her and smile her first smile. It will be the best moment of your life.

She is going to roll over while you are sitting on the floor beside her, cheering her on. It will be your proudest moment in life to date.

In eight months, you will walk in to get her when she wakes up and, plain as day, she will say, “Mama.” This is not a fluke. You will cry your happiest tears.

She is going to say, “I love you,” totally unprompted. Brace yourself for that one, Mama.

In thirteen months, she is going to let go of the table she’s holding onto and walk. Real steps. Across the room and right into your arms. You will be laughing and crying and cheering and clapping like a lunatic.

She is going to show a heart so compassionate that she will cry alongside a character in a book because she is so sad for their sadness.

She becomes part of your little family in a way you can’t even imagine right now. She isn’t just a baby that you love more than anything, she’s your daughter and she’s fun and funny and happy and kind. She makes jokes and loves blueberries and headstands and animals and the color green. She is going to blossom into the most wonderful little person, and you get the privilege of the front row seat.

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So, you sweet, tired, head-over-heals-in-love new Mama, the worrying. It’s not going away. You have to take the worry to get the joy that comes from the place of loving another person so desperately that you could not bear it if something happened to her.

It comes from being all in, and it is so, so worth it.

Pimento Cheese

There is a part of my personality that I will call Hostess Cassie. I love taking care of people in our home; for dinner, for happy hour, for the weekend – come and see me and let me feed you. Hugh would sometimes call this part of my personality Crazy Cassie, because I have a problem – I can’t not make too much food. At our house, hosting prep involves lists and timelines and multiple trips to multiple stores and hours in kitchen. No complaints from me, as I love it, but it can be a little much for the other people who live here.

I come by it honestly. When Hugh and I go to visit my parents, the refrigerator is literally overflowing with everything we love to eat. As a little girl, I remember helping my Mom get the food ready for a dinner with friends. As I was setting the appetizers out, my Mom kept piling the serving plates higher with food, and she said, “It should look always look like there is plenty of food.” Well, let me assure you, my little Southern-self took that message and ingrained it deep into my future hostess list of rules.

When Hugh and I first started living together and, subsequently, having friends over for dinner, I would feel compelled to make at least three appetizers, from scratch. Which resulted in me running around like a lunatic until the second the doorbell rang. And then, by the time we would all sit down for dinner, everyone would be half-full already from the massive appetizer spread.

I would love to say I naturally saw the excess of my ways and toned it down. And I kind of did. I had a baby. And suddenly my time became much more precious. Now, there is a strict one appetizer rule in our house. In addition to the fact that I want to spend less than fifteen minutes putting it together, I want it to be really good.

Enter, my Pimento Cheese. Unless you live under a rock, you know that Pimento Cheese is having a real heyday right now. Rightfully so, seeing that it is a can’t-go-wrong combination of mayonnaise and cheese. Really, is there any way it could not be good?

Plus, it takes ten minutes to make, tastes better after a night in the fridge, and is always the first thing to go at a party.

Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese
makes approximately 2 cups

If we’re serving this as an appetizer, we serve it with water table crackers and celery sticks for dipping. And, lately we’ve been loving it on buffalo pretzel crisps (available near the deli section of Publix). But don’t just serve it as a starter – Pimento Cheese is also great on a burger or as the cheese component of a grilled cheese sandwich. Or, with a spoon from the container with the refrigerator door open when no one is looking…

8oz extra-sharp white cheddar, grated
8oz extra-sharp yellow cheddar, grated
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
4oz jar chopped pimentos, undrained
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Dash of cayenne pepper
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 dash hot sauce
Black pepper to taste (usually I do about 10 grinds from my pepper grinder)

In a medium bowl, mix cheese and mayonnaise with a wooden spoon. Add pimentos (with liquid) and remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Adjust seasoning to taste. Add more mayonnaise by the tablespoon if dry.

Refrigerate at least one hour, or overnight. The longer it sets, the better it gets. Within reason, of course.

Eat it up!

Notes:
Do not buy pre-shredded cheese (ever, but especially for a recipe in which cheese is a main ingredient). Buy a block of cheese and grate it yourself. It will only take a few minutes to do by hand and it tastes so much better. I always use the Cabot Seriously Sharp for both my white and yellow cheddar. And Duke’s is the only mayo we keep in our kitchen.

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